INTERVIEW: Fatboy Slim
Long before the big beats made him the international superstar DJ we know and love today, British DJ, Fatboy Slim had an understated career that most aspiring artists could only dream of.
He took his first big step into the music industry in the 80s whilst playing bass for semi-successful UK band, The Housemartins. If you haven’t heard “Happy Hour”, go and check it out on YouTube immediately. But it was following the group’s split that Norman Cook began to follow his electro-music odyssey when he formed Beats International with Lindy Layton and scored a number one single with the timeless classic, “Dub Be Good To Me” in 1990. However, the jubilation was short-lived as a bitter court case ensued when The Clash’s legal team realised that the bassline was a straight rip from their track “The Guns of Brixton”. It was rumoured that the case bankrupted Cook, but undettered, Freak Power and the hit track “Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out” were formed from the wreckage and catapulted the Brighton boy back into the limelight once more.
It wasn’t until 1996 when Cook’s shape-shifting career hit its stride. With the Fatboy Slim (an oxymoron, and nothing more) moniker coined, he hit the big time as a solo artist. It started off steady with Better Living Through Chemistry, Fatboy’s debut album that launched to little fanfare, but a fair few positive reviews from critics.
It was 1998’s You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby – his second studio album – that Fatboy Slim went stratospheric. Classic big beat tunes such as “Right Here, Right Now”, “The Rockerfeller Skank” and “Gangster Tripping” started seeping into every respectable DJ’s playlist across the globe. He even worked with respected film makers Spike Jonze and Roman Coppola on the incredible, yet super lo-fi video for his track “Praise You”.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Although Cook hasn’t produced a studio album since 2004, he’s still one of the most in-demand DJs on the planet. He’s headlined the Glastonbury festival, held a residency in Ibiza and, sort of unbelievably, played a two-hour set for kids and their parents at the Brighton Fringe Festival. As time has moved on, Cook’s ability to stay relevant is nothing short of impressive. DJs such as Jax Jones still look up to Fatboy, who has become somewhat of a mentor to the up and coming generation of spinners.
This weekend, he could be anywhere in the world, but he’s here to get the ball rolling as the UAE’s party season slowly begins to close down for the summer. We were fortunate enough to find a slot in his busy schedule to chat with him about how the DJ game has changed, who his musical inspirations are and what he likes most about playing in Dubai...
So what should we call you Fatboy Slim or Norman Cook?
Norman is the nicer person but can be slightly dull at times. But Fatboy is never boring. Sort of irresponsible, yes, but dull? Never.
You’ve had a long a varied career how did you get your start in DJing?
Well, I was the only person where I lived who had a load of records so I always used to get invited to all the parties. One day someone hired a double deck console, which I had a go on. I loved controlling the party and everyone seemed to dig my musical selection.
Who has been a source of continuous inspiration for you?
Initially it was Grandmaster Flash, then Carl Cox, then The Chemical Brothers, but nowadays it is Ian Waite from Strictly Come Dancing.
You’re becoming a bit of a Dubai regular – what is it about the place that you love so much?
Erm, excitable crowds, fine weather, excitable crowds, tempting food, excitable crowds, fine street art culture and the excitable crowds…
The excitable crowds, then? Got it. What would you say has been the biggest change you’ve witnessed in DJing?
I’d say both the move from vinyl to digital, and the internet in terms of the way we communicate.
Interesting, so how has the technological revolution affected your art?
It’s much easier to carry music around now because laptops weigh less than a big box of vinyI. It’s easier to mix because there’s software that can help you. It’s way easier for DJs to put on an audiovisual show thanks to software company, Serato. And you can do your own edits and mashups through programs like Ableton. Luckily, through all this change, the crowd want exactly what they’ve always craved – wild musical abandon and the soundtrack to party.
How, if at all, have you had to adjust your style to appeal to crowds of different generations?
Not really, I don’t expect an automatic cheer if I drop “Born Slippy” but I find most of what I do, and my style, is ageless. Young and old, rich or poor, I can give you what you all came for!
What's the best party you've ever been to or played at?
I think Manumission in Ibiza during its heyday was about as good as a party could ever get, especially the carry on fun times at Space.
What's the most unusual item you've ever seen on a rider?
Steve Aoki demanding his cakes have their own dressing room backstage was a bit of an eye-opener!
What else are you planning to do while you’re in Dubai?
Check out the new street art down at JBR. Go for a meal at Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara. And possibly do a skydive at Zero Gravity while the stage is being built.
Which artists should we keep an eye on this year?
Dutch DJ and record producer, Gregor Salto. And my son, Woody is pretty hot.
What does the rest of 2018 have in store for you?
I’ve got a new Ibiza residency coming up and I’m looking forward to the release of Julien Temple’s Ibiza, The Silent Movie.
Zero Gravity Beach Festival presents Fatboy Slim, Gorgon City, A Skillz & Krafty Kutz
Where: Zero Gravity, Dubai Marina
When: 2pm-3am, April 27